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Archive October 2020 XXI, No. 10


Keep Bullying Out of the OR

Andrea Dyer

Andrea Dyer, MSN, RN


Andrea Dyer, MSN, RN, CNOR
STRONGER TOGETHER Andrea Dyer, MSN, RN, CNOR (left), with an OR team that's built on positivity and support.

I was working as a brand-new circulator when the surgeon on the case started making snide comments about one of the OR nurses — a sarcastic jab here, a dig there. Soon the scrub tech joined in, and before long there was a textbook example of bullying taking place during a procedure in full view of residents, fellows and medical students. The nurse these comments were directed toward didn't catch most of what was said — partly because English was her second language and partly because the cowards were talking behind her back. But did that make it any better?

Here was a good nurse who was working extremely hard for a surgeon who belittled her in front of her peers. I wasn't going to be a bystander to the abuse, so I walked up to the surgeon and said, "Hey, that nurse who you're talking about is working hard for you. If you're going to talk about her, you need to do it to her face."

I knew I had to speak up. As surgical leaders, you need to provide our staff the tools, training and confidence to do the same.

Spot bullying behaviors

Bullying is defined as "repeated and deliberate physical, verbal or written conduct intended to intimidate, degrade or humiliate any individual or group in the workplace." As a facility leader, it's your responsibility to recognize the signs that bullying is occurring in the OR. Here are just a few of the common signs:

  • supervisors singling out one team member with unfair or unequal assignments
  • gossiping
  • backstabbing
  • withholding informing that's critical to doing the job
  • refusal to help
  • direct or indirect threats
  • exclusion
  • jokes or slurs based on appearance, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.
  • demeaning non-verbal behaviors (eye-rolling, for example)
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